When compared to the scale of global markets for semiconductor manufacturing, food, medical supplies, or automobile parts, the machine-vision industry is fairly small. But machine-vision systems have a tremendous impact on every one of these markets, and the opportunities keep growing.
This was evident at recent trade shows and conferences, from vision-specific events such as The Vision Show East, to user-group meetings such as NIWeek and the DVT Global Business Conference, and most notably at broad industry shows such as SEMICON West and Automatica. It will also be very clear at this month’s VISION 2004 show, organized by Messe Stuttgart and held from October 19 to 21, in Stuttgart, Germany. The show will draw close to 200 exhibitors and 5000 visitors, most of whom will be looking for machine-vision products and technical help in developing systems for a diversity of applications.
How diverse are these applications? The easy answer is “soup to nuts,” a colloquial reference to a complete dinner menu. But the answer is framed more eloquently by Roger Holt of Inspection Masters (Tularosa, NM, USA), in this month’s Business Views interview. “I think that as the technology grows and the costs go down, every facet of every industry will find applications for machine vision.” His perspective is that of someone who first saw an opportunity to use machine vision to sort pecans because the cost of seasonal manual labor was becoming prohibitive.
Fruit is also being inspected by machine-vision systems-a fact you will discover in our article on the Apfelrobo, a system developed by fruit-technology specialist Hermann Schuster for Hoerbiger-Origa (Wiener Neustadt, Austria). The system sets apples in display cartons so that the reddest, most visually pleasing side of the apple faces the consumer. It’s a mundane task, but one that machine-vision systems perform well, replacing manual handling and achieving a result that fruit vendors know increases apple sales.
In addition, this issue includes an article on inspecting cannulas, disposable needles that are essential for patients with diabetes. The cannulas are manufactured by an automated system developed at sortimat Technology (Winnenden, Germany) and pictured on the cover of this issue.
The applications and technologies discussed in this issue also include a web-inspection system that looks for nonuniformities in sandpaper, the use of infrared products in industrial processes, and an automotive parts control system that marries the technologies of barcode scanning with radio-frequency identification. We hope that these articles help create a base of knowledge for developing further machine-vision applications.
W. Conard Holton
Editor in Chief